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Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Historic Medical Marijuana Regulations

Posted on13. Oct, 2015 by .


Gov. Brown signed three landmark bills on Friday that together usher in a new era for medical marijuana patients and those who provide to them. AB 243, AB 266, and SB 643 establish important protections and regulations for California businesses that make medical marijuana available to patients. The Marijuana Policy Project applauds Gov. Brown and the legislature for adopting a much-needed regulatory framework for the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana in California. This is an important and long-awaited step forward not only for medical marijuana patients and providers, but also for the state as a whole. Nearly 20 years ago, California paved the way for patients’ rights to access medical marijuana. Finally, it is following in the footsteps of states around the country that have proven that regulating marijuana works. We hope localities that have banned medical marijuana establishments will rethink their policies now that these establishments have clear and uniform rules to follow. We wish to thank the many legislators and organizations that all contributed to this effort, including the governor’s office. Despite the many differences over how to proceed, the process saw unprecedented agreement on the solution. Read our summary of the new laws here.

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Michigan House Approves Medical Marijuana Regulation Bills

Posted on11. Oct, 2015 by .


Three bills that would add much-needed guidelines for medical marijuana businesses passed on a vote in the Michigan House today. These bills would establish clear, statewide protections for dispensaries, ensure patients can legally access non-smoked medical cannabis products, and establish tracking requirements for businesses involved in medical marijuana production.

As we approach the end of the year, time is running short. If you are a Michigan resident, be sure your senator knows you support quick passage.image-michigan-cropped

The changes appearing in these bills are long overdue. HB 4209 provides the basic framework, including a business licensing system and testing and labeling requirements, among other provisions. HB 4210 makes critical changes to the definition of “medical marijuana” so that non-smoked forms can be available to patients. The third bill, HB 4827, establishes production and inventory tracking requirements.

Last minute improvements were made — most notably a reduction in a proposed tax on medical cannabis sales. The proposed tax of 8% (in addition to the standard state sales tax) was lowered to 3%. While this provision and others are still not perfect, the vast majority of the proposed new system is reasonable and similar to other regulated programs around the country.

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Las Vegas Hempfest: A Look Inside Nevada’s Marijuana Future

Posted on10. Oct, 2015 by .


Las Vegas HempFestMy continuing travels to some of the more interesting marijuana legalization events around the country (and one coming up in Jamaica) brought me this past weekend to Las Vegas to attend the 2nd Annual Las Vegas Hempfest on Saturday.

The Las Vegas Hempfest, which licensed the name from the original Seattle Hempfest, was held outside the city’s convention center with two stages, lots of good music, and scores of industry exhibitors. Tommy Chong was the star of the show, and received a lifetime achievement award from the Hempfest organizers.

Our friends at Freedom Leaf, who were co-sponsors of the event this year, were in charge of lining up speakers for the day-long series of policy panels that were held a short walk away, inside the convention center. Most attendees, of course, are there to party and enjoy the music, but some are also interested in learning more about the issue of legalizing marijuana, and how that change in policy will impact the culture.

The topics this year included medical/nutritional issues, a nursing panel, cultivation techniques, an industry/finance panel, a media panel and an activism panel. I was pleased to be on a legal penal with Freedom Leaf co-founder Richard Cowan (also a NORML board member and a former NORML national director); and San Diego attorney Ken Sobel.

The event showcased all things marijuana, and provided those in the soon-to-be-legal marijuana market in Nevada (medical use is already legal, and the first few dispensaries have recently opened) an opportunity to introduce their newest products and services, and to begin to build, or extend the reach of their brand to yet another state in a growing list of pot-friendly venues.

Las Vegas, the destination with the nickname of “Sin City” and the slogan of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” suggesting that tourists can enjoy more personal freedom here than in their home town, including gambling and other sometimes naughty options, seems like a natural environment for marijuana legalization. And with a good voter turnout in November of 2016, the state will finally live-up to its reputation.

Tithing To Benefiting NORML

And I would be remiss not to thank the event’s sponsors for generously donating to NORML a dollar from each ticket sold to this event. It was their way of thanking NORML for the decades of hard work that made it possible to finally achieve these recent political successes, an example of tithing that one would hope will be adopted by many more players in the new Green Rush over the coming months and years.

It requires resources to end prohibition, and to enact new laws, either by voter initiative (in those states that offer that option) or legislatively, and these new businesses that are profiting from legalization have a moral obligation to invest a little of those profits back into the movement, and the groups, that have made these changes possible.

So as we head into 2016, the year that should be the breakout year for legalization, let’s continue the strategy that has brought us to where we are today – a state-based strategy that with each new legalization state brings additional support in Congress – and that will, within a few years, permit us to repeal federal prohibition as well, leaving the states free to enact whatever marijuana policy they want, without federal interference.

Full Legalization On the Nevada Ballot in 2016

The sponsors of the Nevada legalization initiative, the Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Nevada, have already gathered the required number of signatures and have been assured of a place on the 2016 November ballot.

Under the proposal, effective January 1, 2017, it would be legal for an adult to possess one ounce of marijuana and, if they live further than 25 miles from a licensed retail outlet, to cultivate up to six plants in the home. And starting in 2018, there would be retail outlets where consumers could legally purchase their marijuana and marijuana products.

Unnecessary Restrictions on Home Cultivation

This unfortunate 25-miles requirement before one is allowed to grow their own marijuana shows the influence the newly legal marijuana industry is beginning to have in the legalization movement. Of course retail sellers would prefer that all marijuana users purchase their marijuana from one of the licensed stores, but unless polling shows the inclusion of home-cultivation would cause the proposal to fail, personal cultivation is a right that adult consumers should have. Most will not elect to spend the time and resources required to grow their own pot, but having that option will keep the industry responsive to the legitimate needs of consumers for a product that is high quality, safe and affordable.

Commercial Licensing Starting in 2018

Other provisions of the initiative would, beginning in 2018, license commercial growers, kitchens, testing facilities, distributors and retailers. Those currently holding medical marijuana retail licensees would for 18 months be the only parties eligible to apply for a retail recreational license; and, in a new twist not seen before, those holding a current alcohol distribution license would have a similar 18-month period during which only they would be eligible for a marijuana distribution license!

The initiative would impose a 15 percent excise tax, on top of the existing 6.5 percent sales tax (and the possibility of up to an 1.25 local tax), and local governments would retain their right to impose zoning restrictions on marijuana businesses.

So obviously this is another example of the growing influence of the newly legal marijuana industry. It is fair to say the pending legalization proposal in Nevada is slanted more to please the industry, than it is to please the consumer.

Not Perfect, But A Big Step Forward

But as NORML has done with previous legalization initiatives, all of which include some disappointing provisions, so long as the initiative ends marijuana prohibition and stops the practice of arresting marijuana smokers, and establishes a legal market where consumers can buy their marijuana, we will almost certainly support the Nevada proposal, warts and all.

And we will be back, once it has passed, to try to make further improvements to assure that marijuana consumers are treated fairly in all areas of their lives, including ending job discrimination, resolving child custody issues and requiring a showing of impairment for a DUID conviction. Policy change occurs incrementally, and it requires commitment and persistence.

If we should hold-out for the perfect law (and we would differ on what a perfect law would look like), the criminal prohibition of marijuana would continue for many more years, along with the continued arrests of hundreds of thousands of marijuana smokers each year.


This column originally was posted on


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Historic California Medical Marijuana Regulation Bills Await Governor’s Signature

Posted on08. Oct, 2015 by .


In September, California lawmakers approved a series of bill that would establish a statewide regulatory framework for California businesses that produce and distribute medical marijuana in the state. AB 243AB 266, and SB 643 create standards for licensing businesses as well as testing, packaging, labeling, and tracking marijuana products, among other things.

Gov. Jerry Brown

The bills establish a new agency within the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, which will oversee the system and work with other agencies that will be involved in licensing key areas of activity, such as cultivation and testing. The bureau will develop detailed rules by January 2017, and businesses will begin to apply for state licenses in January 2018, at which point the current system of collectives and cooperatives will be phased out. Medical marijuana businesses will need to obtain local approval to continue operating.

In 1996, California became the first state to adopt a law that allows seriously ill patients to legally access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. The law did not include a regulatory structure, resulting in a patchwork system in which some communities allowed medical marijuana providers to operate under local regulations while others opted to prohibit such operations entirely.

Gov. Jerry Brown has until Sunday to sign the bills.

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